Stevens County Attorney Aaron Jordan. (Photo: Marshall Hoffman)

Starting today, restaurants will be allowed to have outdoor dining if they follow safety guidelines. The Walz administration told local municipalities to be creative in ways to allow restaurants to operate with the new order, even if they don’t currently have outdoor seating. That led to a lengthy discussion at last Tuesday’s meeting of the Morris City Council, which touched upon a wide range of questions dealing with the law, insurance, the definition of restaurant, liquor licenses and what other towns are doing. City Attorney Aaron Jordan said cities across the state are doing a variety of things to accommodate restaurants.

“Some cities are limiting it to just the property that the restaurant owns, so like a back parking lot or something like that,” said Jordan. “And then, some cities are saying, well, you can use the city right-of-way, or some of the sidewalk. You can use some of the city property that’s attached to it. But what’s pretty consistent is it has to be linked to that building somehow, contiguous with the building where it’s operating out of.”

Whether an establishment is considered a bar or a restaurant will impact what accommodations can be made, suggested Mayor Sheldon Giese.

“The Order is for restaurants to have outside dining, and what we really have to look at is, are establishments restaurants that happen to serve some alcohol, or are they bars that happen to serve a little bit of food?” asked Giese.

City Manager Blaine Hill said he was given a suggestion to utilize one of the city’s parking lots that touches a few restaurants.

“Somebody sent me an email and suggested maybe the alley between The Fireside and then Don’s Cafe and Pizza Ranch could be closed off and then you could have seating throughout that alley,” said Hill. “But nobody’s asked for that.”

In the end, the council approved a motion allowing the city manager, attorney and chief of police to research what other towns are doing and draft a letter of instruction to restaurant owners.

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